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Mar 27, 2009 06:22 PM

Alexander Valley "Fresh Sauerkraut" at Berkeley Bowl

I don't know if this has been mentioned. I tried search and after opening two topics my computer froze again. So, if it has been mentioned ... sorry.

They also had Alexander Valley bread and butter pickles ... regular and hot and spicy. I finally tried the later and there is nice heat and garlic and pickle crunch. Very good like all Alexander Valley products.

Also Chobani Greek yogurt is on sale ... $3.85 for 16 oz. I love this stuff. There is non fat, 2% and ... gasp ... 10 % full fat.

The last is really decadant with some of the Bowl's Fujii strawberries ($1.39). IMO, the Fujii's are currently the tastiest of all the strawberries they are selling.

PS. If anyone has tried Le Cask boxed old vine zinfandel, would you be kind enough to comment on this thread on the wine board?

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  1. Is the sauerkraut in bulk or jars or what?

    2 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Yelp, that picture wofle linked to is it. There are quite a few Chowhound reports about how good it is. Melanie was the first to report about it a few years ago. Probably the best sauerkraut I've had. I'm really happy it is in a store I stop by regularily.

      2. Also available at Piedmont Market.

        1. Which of those yogurts do you buy?

          16 Replies
          1. re: walker

            I'm working my way through them. Last time I bought the non fat and it was great

            Chobani Greek yogurt - organic, certified OU kosher and tasty

            I had the full fat last week and that is great too, like thick sour cream, when I try the 2% if they are pretty much all the same, I'll settle on the non fat.

            1. re: rworange

              Thanks for the info; I'm going to hit Berkeley Bowl tomorrow. I tried making my own yogurt but think I like bought yogurt (like St. Benoit and White Mountain Bulgarian that I bought at WF) better. I'm going to look for those strawberries!!

              1. re: walker

                As long as you might be yogurt shopping, the Berkeley Grocery Outlet has 32 oz Skyhill artisan goat yogurt for $2.49 ... expiration date April 25th ... so it is fresh.

                I haven't tried it yet, but from the site ...
                "We make yogurt the old fashioned way. We use only fresh, sweet milk from our herd, natural seaweed agar for the set (we don’t like to gum it up with tapioca, pectin, gelatin or powdered milk) and we don’t add any sweeteners or animal by-products. We do add live cultures after pasteurization to enhance the easy digestion. And there you have it.

                Our product is very light, delicate, smooth and mild. You will notice the difference from other yogurts in the texture. We have so many wonderful customers calling to tell us things like, “this tastes just like the yogurt I ate as a child in Greece,” and “this is the only yogurt I can eat to aid my sensitive stomach." Skyhill Farms yogurt is Kosher certified by the Orthodox Rabbinical Council.

                If you haven’t already tried our yogurt, you are in for a taste treat. It’s very light and slides down so easily—a totally different experience from other yogurts on the market"

                1. re: rworange

                  Huh? "We do add live cultures to enhance the easy digestion" -- No, you add live cultures because if you don't, it isn't yogurt!

                  "We use only fresh, sweet milk from our herd, natural seaweed agar for the set (we don’t like to gum it up with tapioca, pectin, gelatin or powdered milk)" again, Huh? The natural culturing process is what sets true yogurt -- real yogurt doesn't need anything. And how is it somehow better to add seaweed than powdered milk to a milk-product?!

                  I hate this "we're so special and wonderful" marketing phluff when it's downright misleading about the nature of the product they're claiming to be!

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Yeah, agar is no more or less natural than tapioca or pectin, and will "gum it up" in exactly the same way.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Not misleading at all. I just had some for lunch and it is, in fact, "very light, delicate, smooth and mild"

                      There's not a bit of goat-iness to it. I doublt anyone who wasn't told would know it was goats milk. And they are right about a different texture, there's almost a smooth butteriness to it ... almost sour cream like in texture ... well, half way between yogurt and sour cream.

                      Very pleasant and well worth the price given that supermarket crap in this size is almost double the $2.49.

                      They left out the word 'active' on the website text. It is on the container. I think that is what they meant. It is just badly worded just saying what the National Yogurt Council says

                      Don't know about the agar. Maybe they wanted something with more texture than St. Benoit. Also don't know what the difference in texture would be as far as adding powdered milk. Agar does keep it Kosher in the most literal sense of the word and appeals to vegetarians and vegans. I think it just may be what they felt gave them the best texture ... which is a very nice ... don't know if that has to do with the agar or the nature of goat's milk.

                      I'm glad to have the discount at GO. I think I've passed it by a number of times because they only have that large container and I was wary of what goat's milk yogurt would taste like. It is more expensive normally and I didn't want to pay alot of money for something I possibly might not like. I'd buy this again.

                      Besides ... that's a picture of their first goat on the container ... Emily ... how can anyone hate little Emily?

                      1. re: rworange

                        I'm not saying it's a not a good product, only that the marketing language on the package is misleading in that it implies that there's something different, special or more healthy about the way their yogurt is made. Using agar is not "the old fashioned way" nor is it particularly admirable -- you can, and some companies do, make yogurt "the old fashioned way" with no additional thickeners at all. I suspect that the reason they don't use powdered milk is that powdered goat's milk is expensive compared to the powdered cows' milk used in many cows' milk yogurts, not because agar is superior.

                        Live cultures may make the product more easy to digest, but that isn't why they use them -- they use them because that's how you make yogurt. That's how everyone makes yogurt. In order for yogurt *not* to have live cultures, it has to be heat-treated after culturing and is required to say so on the label. There are some cheap, crappy yogurts that do this, but most yogurts have live cultures, there's nothing special about it, and again, the label language implies that there is. I consider that misleading.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          >>> I suspect that the reason they don't use powdered milk is that powdered goat's milk is expensive compared to the powdered cows' milk used in many cows' milk yogurts, not because agar is superior.

                          I have to say that is really an unfair statement based on nothing.

                          Having played with making my own jello ... yes a different category ... but the jelling agent be it agar, geletin, or pectin ... produces different textures.

                          Because I have no dietary restrictions, I use regular gelatin because I like the mouth feel best.

                          I guess I just don't get the rant on some little goat farm in Napa that is selling their product at a discount at Grocery Outlet. For heaven's sake, the big boys ... yogurt-wise ... make far more outrageous claims. This is a two-bit farm with no publicity machine that I can detect that wrote crappy copy. Give them a call. Do their editing for them.

                          In addition to projecting unfounded motives on the agar, there is also a projecting that this is some slick operation.

                          And aren't we here on Chowhound to comment on taste not packaging. If you want you can shoot me an email about this because actually my defending this little company is based on another post on chowhound that was really unfair.

                          1. re: rworange

                            I guess I'm mostly objecting to the way you post copy lifted directly from their marketing materials on chowhound as if it's gospel. If you want to say good things about the product, then I'd prefer you use your own words, not some marketer's.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              As you know, Grocery Outlet sometimes has quick turnover, so not having tasted it, I did the best I could.

                              I was hoping that someone who DID taste the yogurt would comment on whether they liked it a lot which wouold have been helpful.

                              Yes, the way somethings are phrased or concepts give me a knee-jerk reaction to comment about it with virtual rolled eyes. I try to squelch that though I'm not always successful.

                              I know of a really nice cookbook by a local author that got scathing comments on Chowhound without the person having read it. When I recently purchased it, it was a comment so unfair and so out of line and based on an incorrect perception of what that person was about and what they were producing. .

                            2. re: rworange

                              The point is yogurt shouldn't need gelling agents, all those things adulterate the product.

                              And, yes, we're here to comment on taste. But in your initial post spewing the marketing copy, you hadn't tasted it yet, so that's a waste of time. I'm glad you've since tasted it and can recommend it based on taste and not the quality (or lack thereof) of the marketing approach.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                > "The point is yogurt shouldn't need gelling agents,
                                > all those things adulterate the product."

                                The two brands of goat milk yogurt I'm familiar with are Skyhill and Redwood Hill Farm. At the Berkeley Bowl, they sell for $5.50 and $7.00 per quart respectively. The Skyhill contains the aforementioned agar, while Redwood Hill contains pectin.

                                Redwood Hill also sells a kefir which contains only milk and culture (according to their website, I haven't tried it).

                                Personally, I prefer the Redwood Hill to the Skyhill. The RH has a little bit more of a nice barnyard taste to it. Not overpowering at all, just a hint of chèvre.

                                If I were feeling all puristy I'd probably just get some goat milk and make my own, since making yogurt is about as easy as leaving milk out overnight. But in the meanwhile, both are decent alternatives.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Actually I only opened it up because of the unfair comments here. I would have preferred to wait until later in the month to try it out. If it was some mega corp, I wouldn't bother, but this is a little local company that just plain did not deserve the rant about the copy. So attack the produc based on my inpetness? Or a style that rubs someone wrong?

                                  Yes, it said agar. That is just a statement of fact. Each poster can decide whether they want yogurt with any stabilizer in it. It doesn't automatically make it an inferior product as was implied.

                        2. re: rworange

                          I tried sheep yogurt once by accident and didn't like it -- kinda funky for me. At Berkeley Bowl today they had that Chobani full and non, not the 2%. Since I already had some yogurt to finish, I thought I'd try their blueberry. (Not eaten yet)

                          Sadly, they were out of those Fuji Farms strawberries. Maybe I should not shop on Mondays.

                          1. re: walker

                            Ah ... that link way up says that while people like the plain, people don't like the flavored yogurt. Here's a repeat

                            Chobani Greek yogurt - organic, certified OU kosher and tasty

                      2. re: rworange

                        Picked up a tub of the Chobani full (10%) fat and have been enjoying it with the aforementioned Fuji strawberries. Very rich and great mixed with a little bit of honey (if you're more of a yogurt wuss, like me)..

                        I didn't see any 2% when I went on Sunday--only the regular and the nonfat--but I might have missed it.

                    2. Can anyone comment on how this sauerkraut compares with the "Bubbie's" fresh sauerkraut sold at Rainbow?

                      And this question may belong in the Home Cooking board, but has anyone tried brewing their own? How's it compare with the fresh products? I saw a post on Boing Boing about making homemade sauerkraut and its been kicking around my head for a while now. is it worth it?

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: BernalKC

                        Alexander Valley's is raw.

                        Bubbies in jars is heated, which ruins the flavor and texture. I wouldn't buy it again. Does Rainbow get it in bulk? Supposedly that's raw.


                        The stuff smells pretty strong when it's fermenting.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Rainbow does sell the raw, bulk product. And yes, I can vouch for the kraut being very crunchy compared with normal, processed sauerkraut. So far I've only sampled it on its own, but it has a very good tart pickle flavor with the extra crunchy bite. Its nice, if not mind blowing.

                          1. re: BernalKC

                            There's no substitute for raw sauerkraut for making choucroute garni.

                            Cultured (vendor at Berkeley farmers markets) makes the real thing but they shred rather than chop it so the texture's not right.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              For me, there's a lot off about Cultured. It just doesn't do a thing for me which is too bad because the people are so nice.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                I'll have to check next time I'm at Rainbow, but my memory of the raw bubbies in bulk is that the pieces were more uneven than other sauerkraut I've seen, so it must be chopped or done in a shredder that makes a more randomly sized strip. Since it's self-serve, you set the ratio of cabbage to juice yourself, which sounds like an advantage over the Alexander Valley stuff.

                                Where are you getting the sausages? We've always felt like the local german/Alsatian sausages were a weaker link than the sauerkraut when we make choucroute garni.

                                1. re: SteveG

                                  I can confirm the unevenness. As for controlling the juice ratio, that was complicated by the fact I only had tongs to work with (so I dunked my container to start with some juices). Of course, you pay more for adding juices -- but I wasn't paying any attention to price, to be honest.

                                  1. re: SteveG

                                    I just use whatever great sausages don't seem too un-Frenchy. Fatted Calf, Cafe Rouge, whataver.

                                2. re: BernalKC

                                  i picked up some of the fresh kraut from Rainbow and did a side by side comparison with Alexander Valley. My opinion is that it is ok, but not mind-blowing.

                                  It reminds me too much of Cultured with an off cut. It also has that whiff of health food about it like the Cultured kraut ... more about it being good for you than tasting good.

                                  It is courser and tougher than Alexander Valley. If there never was any AV sauerkraut, I still wouldn't buy this again.

                                  The Raibow kraut is saltier and again this odd texture, not quite crunchy, not quite wilted. Tough, just tough. The word stringy kept popping into my mind.

                                  The AV kraut has a fresh cabbage taste and an addictive crunch to it.

                                  It didn't matter too much in a Reuben, but I wouldn't top a hot dog with the Rainbow stuff.

                                  That being said, i got not only one ... but two ... bad batches of pickles from Alexander Valley. Totally unaceptable when paying $5 for a tub. for the whole Manhattan pickles, three were mushy and inedible. The bread and butter pickle slices were not as crispy as usual and a little on the watery side.

                                  I wonder if, like so many small businesses that expand, they have someone new making the product. The kraut I bought was fine and the container was fully filled. However, I'm wondering if something like poor quality control was what went wrong with Robert's batch. i'll probably email them about my pickles since I'm ust not happy about this.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    This discussion just got more complicated. Last time I was at Rainbow, I inspected the kraut. Rainbow now offers two (2!) raw krauts in the bulk fridge.

                                    Kraut 1, Bubbies, uses water as an ingredient.

                                    Kraut 2, from a producer who I can't remember at the moment, does not list water as an ingredient. Kraut 2 was made by people who also make kim chee, so I doubt they'd be afraid of robust flavors, but you never know. The Rainbow grocery tag indicated it was a new product, but typically those mean "new to Rainbow" rather than "new to the marketplace."

                                    rworange, which brand did you buy? We're going to need to start keeping vintage charts on local kraut to keep it all straight...

                                    1. re: SteveG

                                      On Saturday there was only one pail (crock, bucket?) of kraut available during my visit, so can't say.

                                      The product code is 2322. Anyone know which kraut is assigned that number?

                                      1. re: SteveG

                                        "We're going to need to start keeping vintage charts on local kraut to keep it all straight..."

                                        LOL! You beat me to it. My head was starting to spin at the idea of having to keep track of cellar time for pickles and sauerkraut so they're not consumed too young or go limp.

                                3. re: BernalKC

                                  I tried the bulk Bubbies from Rainbow. Didn't seem much different from the jar kind. Not very good.

                                  The only place I've found real fresh, Alsatian-style choucroute around here to date was at Boulette's Larder, which charged a fortune, and once downstairs at Chez Panisse.

                                4. Got some. It's not made in the traditional Alsatian style with only salt and cabbage left to ferment. They add water and it's very wet, the sauerkraut is floating in liquid.

                                  The flavor's good but very mild. I'll try draining it and making choucroute garni and see how it works.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Made choucroute garni with some bacon, juniper berries, and caraway. It was flavorless. Not only did it not taste like choucroute, it didn't even taste like cabbage. I had to add salt.

                                    I really don't understand why they add water.

                                    I'll have to pick up some bulk Bubbies next time I'm at Rainbow.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      I've mentioned before that some batches seem to be released too "fresh", tasting mostly of salt and not enough tanginess yet.

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        This didn't even taste salty. You could tell it was fermented but it was quite mild. It reminded me of Korean "water" kimchi.

                                        Traditionally-made sauerkraut throws off a lot of juice. Adding water is just bizarre. I think these people are going for the vegan / raw / health-food crowd rather than gourmets.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          I had to rinse my batch before making choucroute garni or it would have been too strong.

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                            This was the opposite. Probably would have been better if we'd added some of the brine.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              Never made choucroute garni in my life and I believe Melanie addressed all that.

                                              I think it is swell on hot dogs and all my Polish dishes ... looking forward to it in cabbage soup after Easter with my ham and keilbasa ... or just with the Polish sausage.

                                              Love the crunch. Love the fresh flavor. So worth the $$ to me. I guess I don't get what all the watery business is about. It has brine liquid like any other sauerkraut. I might give Rainbow a try one of these days, but the hassle of going there for me when I can get what I love near me ... I don't see it happening more than once.

                                              Yes, Robert, it was just delicious mixed with the yogurt ... RL made a joke in a deleted comment ... sounded good, so I went for it ... oh wait, yesterday was April 1st.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                The water business is that the ingredients are cabbage, water, and salt. The cabbage was floating in liquid. After straining the brine filled maybe a third of the container.

                                                The ingredients in traditional sauerkraut are just cabbage and salt. When you buy it, the container should be packed tight. After straining you shouldn't have that much liquid.

                                                So two problems, at least with this batch: not enough flavor and low net weight. I'll see if future batches look any different.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  Yeah, that sounds really off. While the AV kraut isn't as packed as in the jars, most of the container is still filled with kraut after draining.